Lizzie Armitstead feels she is still capable of winning a third national road race title on Sunday despite crashing heavily at the Aviva Women’s Tour just 10 days ago.
The Boels Dolmans rider, who clinched the British champion’s jersey in 2011 and 2013, won the opening stage of the women’s Tour but crashed into photographers shortly after crossing the line, somehow escaping without serious injury.
Armitstead was back on the bike on Tuesday for a first proper training ride since the incident and, while the situation is far from ideal, she doesn’t feel she has lost the form that has seen her win the last three races she took part in.
“I felt okay, the leg was a bit tired towards the end but way better than I expected to be, so all set for the nationals,” she told British Cycling.
"It's more mental. I think I'll miss the racing speed I would have gained from five days racing in the UK - it would have been fast, sprinty type – it would have been good for the nationals and difficult to replicate on your own in training.
“It's difficult to readjust and think, 'okay I've been on the sofa while everyone else has been racing’ but it's not been long enough to lose form anyway. It's gone better than I expected so I think the form is good enough to be able to win the race. It's just whether the race goes my way and I feel good on the day."
The race has every chance of going Armitstead’s way as the course looks tailor-made for her capabilities. The 107km route finishes with 4.5 laps of a Lincoln Grand Prix-inspired circuit that features multiple ascents of Michaelgate, a 300-metre climb with a gradient of 1/6.
"It's perfect for me,” said the Belgium-based rider. “My favourite kind of races are those spring classics that have got those short, steep cobbled climbs in them. I would say that they're my speciality so it should be a nice finish for me. I'm pretty excited about the finish."
Armitstead will be fending for herself as the only Boels-Dolman rider in the race, while those riding for domestic outfits will have the advantage of strength in numbers. She has her eye on the Pearl Izumi Sports Tours International team, containing Sarah Storey, Joanna Rowsell, Katie Archibald and Ciara Horne, as a particular threat.
“I think from the little knowledge I've got of the racing they [Pearl Izumi] have done - they're an aggressive team so I think they will try and put me on the back foot and try and attack,” said Armitstead, who was third behind the Wiggle-Honda duo of Laura Trott and Dani King last year.
"They've got those strong girls who can - if they do get a gap - they'll be difficult to pull back in even solo - you've got the time triallers in there and the team pursuit riders as well.
"Nationals is always difficult. It's quite a tactical race so the harder it is the better, then it comes down to who's the strongest in the race.”